Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Guru's Musings: Delle Donne And Other Matters

By Mel Greenberg

Tuesday was quite the night for musing what might have been when it comes to discussing Delaware sophomore Elena Delle Donne, one of the top freshmen in the nation last season.

Had the 2008 national high school player of the year stuck with her original intent to play at Connecticut, there was ever a briefest pause to wonder what kind of impact she might have had for the Huskies in the 1 vs. 2 showdown with Baylor won 65-64 by UConn at the XL Center in Hartford.

Her departure after a two-day stay in summer school made little difference the last two seasons as Connecticut won back-to-back unbeaten NCAA titles to launch a record win streak that reached 80 after holding off the Bears on Tuesday.

But when it came to dealing with 6-foot-8 sophomore Brittney Griner, aside from the fine defensive job by freshman Samarie Walker in the first half, Delle Donne might have been another body capable of limiting the potential damage being caused by foul trouble in UConn's post rotation.

As it was, perhaps more so than Delle Donne, UConn coach Geno Auriemma noted the effect of losing her good friend Caroline Doty, the point guard out of Germantown Academy and Doylestown in suburban Philadelphia who is missing her second season in three years because of another knee injury.

As mentioned after the game, had Doty been healthy there wouldn't be a need to rush freshman Bria Hartley into the starting lineup in the national spotlight so quickly.

Incidentally, a fans publication had Doty's picture, in uniform, on the cover, though her injury was mentioned inside

However, UConn's history in winning seven national titles and just missing a few more, have been nutured by the hands fate has dealt the Huskies, such as Doty's two injuries.

Though Hartley struggled most of the night, her eight points at the finish made her an instant star and fan favorite as she enabled Connecticut's streak to stay alive and move closer to the 88 straight won by the UCLA men's teams under John Wooden.

But while Maya Moore and the newbies caused Connecticut to prevail again, Delle Donne was playing at home with the Blue Hens at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark face to face with another school that had been one of her original four finalists along with UConn, Middle Tennessee and Tennessee.

That would be Villanova, which came back into the discussion when Delle Donne declared her return to basketball in May 2009.

When she had given up her UConn scholarship and then decided to attend Delaware and play volleyball for the 2008-09 season, she blamed "burnout" from the enormous attention placed on her skills.

But upon her return, Delle Donne identified the real cause as homesickness, saying, "if I had known it was that, it might have impacted my original decision."

The conclusion immediately was that perhaps Villanova (1-1) would have been the grand prize winner.

So on Tuesday night instead of helping the Wildcats' cause, Delle Donne put her own stamp on their 69-62 demise, scoring 34 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. That followed up her 36 on opening night Friday aat home gainst the University of Maryland at Baltimore.

Villanova coach Harry Perretta does not get into these kind of scenarios that we all sometimes find a little fascinating or readership worthy.

Asked to evaluate her game, Perretta responded, "I hadn't seen her since high school, but, though it sounds hard to believe, she has gotten even better. She has clearly worked on her game and understands how to play.

"She was in the entire way against us and she also appears to be a lot stronger."

Delaware jumped from No. 24 to 15th in this week's CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Poll.

Ironically, it is sort of a retro week for Delle Donne because the Blue Hens' next stop is Saturday night at Yale at 7 p.m., in New Haven which means she will finally get to play IN Connecticut, though not FOR Connecticut.

The media covering the Huskies, however, will be on the way to Atlanta where UConn goes after win No. 81 Sunday afternoon at Georgia Tech, which also is the homecoming game for senior Maya Moore in her native state.

Holy Family Wins Again Despite Carr Injury

Close calls come in different forms and moments.

On Tuesday night, were it not for 24 turnovers by Baylor to go with a poor shooting effort on the foul line, Connecticut's win streak might be history instead of remaining alive by the slim 65-64 outcome.

Holy Family (2-0), ranked fifth in the coaches' poll in Division II, suffered a different kind of scare Wednesday night on the way to an 83-61 victory over Kutztown at the Tigers' Campus Center in Northeast Philadelphia.

Cruising along in the first half against the Golden Bears in what was the visitors' season opener, Carr had 15 points ahd the Tigers were ahead 29-14 when the senior forward from Bernardsville, N.J., hit the floor screaming in pain.

As she was helped to the bench, the moment appeared to be another in a long series of scenes in the sport in which star players have been cut down by knee injuries.

This time, however, the outcome was happier with Carr having tweaked her ankle.

If anything, Holy Family never faded after Carr left the game against a team that was 19-10 last season and picked to finish fourth this time in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East Division. Kutztown, incidentally, is coached by Janet Malouf who starred at Rutgers under Theresa Grentz.

"I proud of my kids to keep the momentum going when 'Cat did go down," Holy Family coach Mark Miller said afterwards. "I think it hurt a little bit but I think she'll be ready to go Saturday.

"I'll be shocked if she's not ready."

Carr described the moment she got hurt.

"It's just the initial reaction you have, you get a little scared, but I should be good."

Lauren Peters followed Carr in the scoring department with 13 points, while Lindsey Tennett scored 12, Carolyne Heston scored 11 and Samantha Thompson scored 10.

Kutztown's Melissa McQuade and Kristen Murray each scored 12 points and Steph Zewe scored 10.

"I thought we had a good rhythm, even after I came out, and we didn't let that alter the way we played," Carr said. "And we handled it well. On the defensive side, we know we need to pick it up a bit, box out some more and not give up so many offensive rebounds. Offensively, we're playing pretty well."

The Tigers struggled a bit at the opening but showed no effects of a letdown from Monday's season opener at home against No. 24 Bentley.

"I was a little bit concerned we didn't get off to a good start, but we kind of got ourselves going, playing better," Miller explained. "I'm not real happy where we are defensively right now as a team -- giving up too many points -- we have to do a better job as we go.

"But we came through, made some big plays, got some people playing well, and we had a good group that did a lot of different stuff and got a lot of people playing time, so that was important."

Holy Family continues its nonconference schedule with its first road trip Saturday, playing American International in Springfield, Mass.

Drexel Roars Over La Salle

Gabriela Marginean has moved from Drexel action into the Dragons' history books, but apparently there's little trouble at the outset continuing to produce points in the wake of her stellar career as the all-time scorer in Philadelphia women's collegiate history.

Kamile Nacickaite poured down 26 points Tuesday night, shooting 10-for-15 from the field, and Hollie Mershon had 15 as Drexel took its season opener, winning at La Salle, 86-55, in the Explorers' Tom Gola Arena.

La Salle (1-2), which is at No. 13 Georgetown Friday night, suffered its second loss under new coach Jeff Williams.

"I was a little surprised it went that way," Drexel coach Denise Dillon said. "I thought it would be a lot closer either way because of the way we traditionally have had problems at their place over the years.

"I didn't know what to expect from us, considering it was our first game. But I said with 'Gabby gone, it will have to be about other people stepping up and that's what happened.

"Of course, it always helps when you can make shots early in the game."

Drexel opens at home Friday night in the battle of West Philadelphia, hosting Penn, which is off to a 1-0 start following last Friday's when over Bryant.

"You look at what's happening in some games and we told our kids at practice, you can't assume things after our win over La Salle. Both teams know each other well from playing in the summer league (in Hatboro). Penn is obviously a lot better."

An example of what Dillon was saying can be found in College Park, Md., where the No. 21 Terrapins are recovering from a 53-45 loss Tuesday night at nearby No. 13 Georgetown in the Hoyas' tiny McDonough Arena.

It's not that Maryland lost that was a surprise, it was the Terrapins' inability to score considering the way they ripped through three lesser opponents, two in preseason play, and Monmouth in the opener prior to Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Drexel, though not in the Big Five, is playing its first four games against City Series rivals, continuing next week against St. Joseph's and Villanova, which is Dillon's alma mater. The only team the Dragons won't meet is Temple (0-2), which was shocked at Seton Hall (1-1) Tuesday night with new Pirates coach Anne Donovan getting her first victory 72-59.

"We play Seton Hall so I'm curious as to what they have," Dillon said. La Salle also plays the Pirates.

Drexel and Villanova met last year on the Main Line with the Wildcats using a strong second half to win. This will be the first time Villanova's Perretta will coach in the Dragons' Daskalakis Athletic Center, though he has been in the stands many times watching both Dillon's teams and the Drexel men coached by Bruiser Flint.

Hawks Begin Long Road Trip With Win

St. Joseph's is now 2-0 after winning 67-49 at Sacred Heart on Tuesday night as Michelle Baker set a career high with 17 points. The Hawks travel to University of Maryland-Baltimore County Saturday.

Next week they return to the city but play at Drexel Tuesday and then take a break before traveling to Patriot champion Lehigh on Nov. 30. The Mountain Hawks will be coming off an appearance at Connecticut -- really.

The next St. Joe's game in Hagan Arena is Villanova on Dec. 12.

Rutgers After First Win

Following losses at California at No. 3 Stanford last weekend, Rutgers hosts nearby Princeton, the Ivy defending champion and favorite, in the Louis A. Brown Athletic Center Thursday night.

The Tigers won their opener, beating Fairleigh Dickinson 78-37 after going 26-3 last season. One of the losses was to the Scarlet Knights at home in Jadwyn Gym while the other in regular season was at UCLA. They lost in the NCAA first round to St. John's.

Rutgers got good news Wednesday, getting a commitment on the final day of the early signing period from 5-9 guard briyona Canty, the No. 6 ranked player in ESPN HoopGurlz 100. She plays at Trenton Catholic Academy.

Temple Homecoming of Sorts

Still looking for their first win after an 0-2 start, when the Owls host Buffalo Friday night in McGonigle Hall it will mark the return of former Temple coach Linda Hill MacDonald.

She had been the most successful coach of the program, taking the Owls to the NCAA tournament in 1989, prior to the arrival 11 years later of former coach Dawn Staley.

The game is part of an annual series of contests against Mid-American Conference schools that were set as part of the deal that enabled the football team to join the MAC.

Staley's South Carolina team, incidentally, will be at Penn State Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

-- Mel

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